City Charter

Salem operated under a town government until the City Charter was accepted on March 23, 1836, making it the second chartered city in Massachusetts. The original charter, with a bicameral legislative body, was replaced by the Commission form in 1913. This form, consisting of four commissioners and a mayor, was supplanted in 1916 by the present form of city government, called "Plan B Government".


Plan B City Government provides for a Mayor, and City Council of eleven members, seven elected from the wards, and four at-large. See the Salem Code of Ordinances for the text of the City Charter.


The Mayor is elected for four years in November of unevenly numbered years. He is the administrative head of the city and chairman ex-officio of the School Committee, the Board of Library Trustees, and the Board of Trust Fund Commissioners. He acts with the City Council and School Committee to carry out city business.

He appoints his office staff, the City Solicitor, and the Assistant City Solicitor without City Council confirmation. The appointment of most city department heads, and members of the various boards and commissions, however, require City Council confirmation.

He has the right to veto any order, resolution, or ordinance passed by the Council. However, his veto may he overturned by a two-thirds vote of all councillors.

After reviewing and revising the estimates prepared by department heads, the Mayor submits the budget to the City Council for final action.

The Mayor approves all municipal payrolls, vouchers, contracts and instruments; he recommends bond issues, legislation and orders to the City Council; he represents the city with other levels of government.

As the general administrator of all city departments, he is consulted by department heads pertaining to the city's welfare.


Under the City Charter, the City Council, is composed of eleven members, one elected from each of the seven wards and four elected at-large.

The City Council is primarily the legislative branch of the city government. As the legislative body, the Council confirms appointments made by the Mayor and appropriates all monies necessary to city operation. It can approve, disapprove, or reduce the amount of appropriations, but not add to the appropriation.

The Council receives orders recommended by the Mayor and petitions from the public, and acts on them after committee study. The City Council also has the power to enact Ordinances and other regulations.

A majority of the City Council constitutes a quorum and the affirmative vote of a majority of all the members of the Council is necessary for the adoption of any motion, resolution, or ordinance. In some instances, adoption by a 2/3 vote of the members is required by statute.

All legislative sessions, whether full Council or Committee, must be public. Every matter must he put to a vote, and a full and accurate journal of Council or Committee action must be kept.

Meetings of the City Council are held on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber in City Hall, and are open to the public. Special Meetings may be held at the call of the President or City Clerk, with the approval of six Councillors. Regular Meetings of the City Council are now taped and broadcast on SATV, Channel 16, in Salem.